Like that single drop of water on the delicate petal of that flower… the drop has a boundary that defines it as a drop – the form it has taken – yet its boundary does not keep the petal from experiencing its quality, its moisture; and its boundary does not keep us from witnessing its beauty, the delicate nature of its being and its transparency. Its boundary allows it to keep its form but does not keep anyone, or anything out. In other words, its boundary, unlike a barrier, does not exclude anyone or anything.
Boundaries are not barriers. Many of us think these two are synonymous. They may have similar definitions in the dictionary, but the distinction made above is how we will deal with the two for the purpose of this article.
Barriers are built to protect us against others. Like, “I’m ready for the attack, so I’m gonna guard against you and your stuff. I dare you.”
Boundaries are created in consciousness. Boundaries allow us to have peace of mind; and give us room to be ourselves, grow and thrive.
They are very different, and while one is built in negativity, the other can be built in complete positivity.
Come with me… I’ll tell you a little story about me.
In my life, I have created a number of barriers. I’ve built barriers that have barricaded me in to my own small reality called, “I must protect myself at all costs.” I’ve done this in romantic relationships, familial relationships, and in work circumstances. At a certain point in my life, I realized I had a lack of intimacy with other people in my life. It saddened me, because I was at a point in my life where I was realizing that intimacy was the sweetness of life – being with other people completely bared, vulnerable and available inspiring the same in them. Frankly, I had never known what intimacy was before that. It wasn’t until I was aware of what it was that I realized it had been so sorely missing.
I began to let down the barriers that I had built up as walls of protection. And in finding the new me – newly discovering who I was without those barriers that I had lived with all my life – I began to find that I had no idea of how to be that open without seeking validation where I would not receive it. I had used my barriers as crutches to lean on, and since I was leaning hard, pretending they were my appendages instead, I didn’t have full use of my voice. Now, I had a new challenge: strengthen my voice to match my maturity. In this area, I was weak.
I didn’t use my voice in ways that honored me. I was wimpy when I spoke, and so my barriers had been pure compensation. This was eye-opening, and it scared me shitless. My challenge was to find the new me, and the new ways of being and thinking that would lend me power – new power and integrity of being. It was a scary time. And then I discovered… ta-daaaaaaa, boundaries.
I discovered I could create boundaries to keep everything I was learning about myself precious and to myself until I was ready to share it – when my voice and my confidence were more steady.
I discovered I could create boundaries to keep people from talking to me about things that were dangerous to my new, raw and burgeoning self. I didn’t have to have conversations that made me uneasy, and I certainly didn’t have to suffer under some strange superhuman notion that I should just “buck up, and take it on the chin.”
I discovered that I could create boundaries to support my new thoughts. And even when people already knew me a certain way, my boundaries – if I fully honored them – would help me to keep my old identity (how they used to know me) from taking over again. I could say what I needed to say without fear of reprisal from others, because I didn’t “sound like myself.”
Now, did these boundaries work by themselves? …. Hell, no.
I had to stick to my guns. I had to stand in my truth. I had to be willing not to be approved of or to be liked.
And then, and only then, could I create the beauty I could envision for myself. But while I was in this raw state of discovery, I could use these boundaries to help me stand my ground… and keep taking ground instead of losing it.
Boundaries can be created with many other purposes in mind and all as ways to keep your integrity as you’re testing the limits of paradigms you once knew. Use them and use them well. You are worth it. You don’t have to be what anyone else wants you to be, only what you envision of yourself.